California Attorney Legally Establishes Paternity

fathers feet with babies feet

Paternity refers to the legal state of being a child’s parent. When a judge establishes paternity, she will grant a court order that states that a person is a child’s legal parent. California law assumes that when a child is born during a marriage, the wife is the mother, and the husband is the father. However, when parents are unmarried, the paternity of the child needs to be established legally.

Contact a San Bernardino Paternity Lawyer

If you are seeking to establish paternity, or you’d like to dispute the result of a paternity test, you need a skilled attorney on your side. Attorney Ronald L. Freeman has extensive experience successfully representing clients in family law cases in San Bernardino and throughout California. He understands that paternity cases can be complex and uses his experience to guide clients through the complicated legal process. Contact the Law Offices of Ronald L. Freeman today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Establishing Paternity in California

Under California law, there are several ways to establish paternity. The way parents should go about establishing paternity depends on the parent’s status at the time of the child’s conception and birth. If the parents were married when the child was conceived, and the husband and wife were cohabitating, California law presumes that the child is a product of the marriage. There is a conclusive presumption of parentage. If another party would like to challenge this presumption, he or she can do so through a court-ordered genetic test, but the test needs to be requested within two years of the child’s birth.

When the child’s parents were not married when the child was conceived, a hospital administrator will give the man identified as the father a voluntary declaration of paternity form. If the man executes the form and files it with the State Department of Child Support Services, it will establish paternity and have the same effect as a judgment of parentage that a court issues.

Court Ordered Genetic Testing

Paternity can become an issue in many different types of civil actions, such as child custody and child support matters. When it becomes a relevant fact in a civil action, the court must order the alleged father to submit to a genetic test whenever a party to the lawsuit motions to do so. The party requesting the genetic testing must submit the motion within a reasonable time before the hearing.

In other cases, a father would like to establish paternity to spend time with his children. In California, the existence of a father-child relationship can be established through the court. The father can petition the court for a paternity test. The court will most likely order DNA testing to determine the child’s paternity. However, not everyone can request a genetic test to establish paternity. A person must have legal standing to request a genetic test. California law limits legal standing to the husband, child, mother, and a “presumed parent.” 

Examples of actions that could indicate that a man is a presumed parent would include receiving the child into the father’s home or openly holding out the child as his or her natural child. A genetic test to establish or defeat fraternity needs to be conducted by a court-appointed expert. If not, the test doesn’t have any legal significance, regardless of the results.

Why Establishing Paternity Is Important

Establishing paternity is important for several different reasons. Mainly, establishing paternity can help a child’s well-being. There is an emotional benefit that comes from a child knowing who his or her parents are. A child with two legally established parents is entitled to the same rights as children of married parents. The legal privileges include the following:

  •  Legal documentation identifying both parents
  •  Continued financial support from both parents
  •  Life insurance coverage from a parent
  •  Health insurance coverage from a parent
  •  The right to accept veteran’s benefits or Social Security benefits 
  •  Access to family history information, including medical records
  •  Having both parents named on the birth certificate
  •  The right to inherit from a parent under California’s intestacy laws

What Happens After

Once paternity has been established, a parent will assume all of the responsibilities and rights that come along with being a legal parent. The parent can request visitation and custody orders from a family court to spend time with their child. The parent may need to pay child support and contribute to covering the essential cost of raising a child. After it has been legally established, the parent is obligated to support the child financially. The other parent can petition the court to order the newly-recognized legal parent to pay child support. Failure to pay required child support can result in legal action. 

Defending Against a Paternity Action

If you think you are not a child’s father, but you’re being subjected to a paternity action, there are ways you can defend yourself. If you were cohabitating with your wife and married at the time of the child’s conception, you could provide evidence that you were sterile or impotent at the time of conception. If you are successful, the court will dismiss the action, and you won’t be required to provide financially for the child. Another method of denying paternity would be to request genetic testing. However, this request needs to be made within two years of the child’s birth.

Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Paternity Lawyer

Paternity actions can be complicated in California. If you’re involved in a paternity case, it’s in your best interest to contact a qualified San Bernardino family law lawyer to assist you. Attorney Ronald L. Freeman has extensive experience establishing and defending against actions. Contact the Law Offices of Ronald L. Freeman today to schedule your free initial consultation.